By Siddharth Cavale
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (Reuters) – Walmart is raising wages for thousands of U.S. pharmacists and opticians, the retailer said on Wednesday, part of its broader plan to expand primary care services across the country.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain said about 3,700 pharmacists would get a bump in pay starting on Wednesday, bringing their total annual average pay to more than $140,000, excluding bonuses and incentives. More than 4,000 opticians will also receive fatter paychecks, with their average hourly pay rising to more than $22.50 with this investment, Walmart executives wrote in a blog post.
The company declined to provide details on their wage rates last year or how it will select the employees for the hikes.
Salary rates vary based on location and role, so not all pharmacists and opticians will earn the average annual or hourly salary, Walmart spokesperson Nick DeMoss said.
Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer and the salary move comes on the heels of its announcement to double the number of its in-store healthcare centers and expand into new states.
Health clinics in retailers’ pharmacies played an outsized role in dispensing COVID vaccines and treatments during the pandemic and the companies are now looking to position themselves to grab a larger share of the healthcare services market.
Walmart’s ‘Health’ centers typically offer primary care, dental care, behavioral health and labs and X-ray services.
Wednesday’s hikes come nearly a year after the company raised wages for 36,000 pharmacy technicians, bumping up their average hourly pay to more than $20. Pharmacy technicians, who fill medicine prescriptions, process third-party insurance claims and help patients check out at the pharmacy, are not part of Wednesday’s announcement, DeMoss said.
Pharmacists, unlike the technicians, receive higher pay because of their higher level of education and advanced medical knowledge, DeMoss added.
Walmart, CVS Health and Amazon.com have all been expanding into patient healthcare services over the past few years by partnering with or acquiring medical companies.
Amazon paid $3.49 billion to buy primary care provider One Medical, while CVS agreed to buy home healthcare services company Signify Health for about $8 billion, last year.
“We’re serious about being an employer of choice for the talented individuals in these fields. That’s why we’re investing in pay raises for thousands of pharmacists and opticians in stores across the country,” Kevin Host, senior vice president of Walmart’s Pharmacy business and David Reitnauer, vice president of its Optical business wrote in a blog post.
(This story has been corrected to say ‘opticians’ instead of ‘optometrists’ in paragraph 1)
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bentonville, Arkansas; Editing by Bill Berkrot)